Tutorial: Folding Fabric

Mal | Home,Media,Organizing,Sewing | Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Fabric progress

Several people have asked about the techniques we used when cleaning out my mom’s fabric stash last week. There are of course many ways to purge, sort, and organize fabric, which I’ll write about later. But first, I wanted to address questions about the folding station and the folding method we used.

Studio Corner Sneak Peek

It’s the same method I’ve been using as I’ve been sorting and organizing fabric in my own apartment. Here you see an in-progress picture of my new studio corner with stacks of uniformly-folded fabric. This is a method I first read about from Monica, the Happy Zombie and later from Marilyn Bohn’s video.

Tutorial: fabric folding

Of course there are other ways, but this is the cheap, easy, quick one that works for me. The goal is to end up with a stack of fabric that is uniformly folded — the same length and width.

Tutorial: fabric folding

The height of each folded piece varies according to how much yardage you have to begin with.

Tutorial: fabric folding

To accomplish this, you’ll need a stack of fabric (45″ wide works best, though other widths can be accommodated), a flat surface, and a large quilter’s ruler. My mom had three 6.5″-wide rulers, so we defaulted to using those for her project. However, the cubbies on my shelf are 13″ wide. In order to comfortably fit 2 stacks of fabric side-to-side, I needed to use a slightly smaller ruler. Mine is 6″ wide and 24″ long.

Tutorial: Fabric Folding 1

I don’t currently have any fabric that hasn’t been folded by this method, so I had to un-fold a piece to show you how it’s done. Pardon the creases!

First, ensure that the fabric is folded in half lengthwise (selvedge-to-selvedge) with the wrong sides together. Many fabrics (including most quilter’s cotton) are approximately 45″ wide, which leaves you with a span of fabric around 22″ after it’s folded in half. For my ruler of 24″, this is just perfect. It leaves a little bit of ruler poking out on either end.

Tutorial: fabric folding 2

Begin “wrapping” the fabric around the ruler, starting with the raw edge nearest to you. It’s almost like you’re making a small “bolt” of fabric with the quilter’s ruler where the cardboard core would be.

Tutorial: fabric folding

Continue wrapping (flipping the ruler away from you) until you reach the other raw edge of the fabric. At this point, you have two options.

Tutorial: fabric folding

If the remaining edge is wide enough, you can just fold it over. However, if that edge piece is too small and won’t lie flat, there is another option.

Tutorial: fabric folding

If the last wrapped edge is too small to lie flat, unfold the bolt of fabric and tuck the edge under. Then, flip the bolt on top of the fold and it will seal the edge up into the wraps of fabric.

Tutorial: fabric folding

Pull the ruler out from the center of the fabric. Make sure that it lies flat and the raw edge doesn’t pop out.

 Tutorial: fabric folding

Fold the fabric in half cross-wise. (Hamburger fold, not hotdog.)

Tutorial: fabric folding

Place your folded fabric on the shelf with the folded edge facing you. that way, you can see at a glance what colors of fabric you’ve got.

Tutorial: fabric folding

You can see that the finished piece is a little larger than 6″ wide, and about 11″ long. This will vary depending on your ruler, so make sure you understand your shelves or storage spaces before you have to unfold your whole collection!

Tutorial: fabric folding

A lot of people store their fat quarters separate from the rest of their fabric collection. My mom wanted hers kept separate, so we did what Monica Zombie suggested and folded the fat quarters in the same way but with a smaller ruler. I prefer to keep my fabric all together, since I’m generally hunting for fabric of a certain color, rather than of a certain size.

A fat quarter is generally around 18″ x 22″. Using my 6″ ruler allows me to make a tidy little bolt and store all of my fabric in one place.

Tutorial: fabric folding

Fold one edge in…

Tutorial: fabric folding

Then the other.

Tutorial: fabric folding

Just as before, remove the ruler and fold in half.

Voila! If you’re starting with 60″ fabric, vintage sheets, or other odd-sized pieces, the procedure is the same. All you have to do is fold it lengthwise (hotdog, not hamburger) to approximately 20-24″ wide before you begin wrapping. For a 60″ piece, I generally just fold it in thirds lengthwise and it pretty much evens out in the end.

Be aware that extra yardage (3+ yards) will yield pieces that are noticeably wider due to the sheer bulk of fabric as you wrap around and around. You may need to take this into account as you plan out the size of your storage system.

A final thought: This sytem really only works if you are dedicated to maintainence. I’ll post later about my system for re-folding pieces after I have used them. However, I find that the investment of time really pays off.

This method is becoming increasingly popular, but hopefully my tutorial will add something to the conversation. Let me know if you try it out!


  1. I love how it all looks on the shelves! I’ve keep all my stuff in bins by color, because of lack of storage area… and serious black NYC dust… I like your shelves, are they expedits? ikea? I’m thinking this system would help from OVER BUYING too! since you can see everything you have…
    thanks for the great tutorial

    Comment by V — 9 July 2009 @ 6:11 pm

  2. Very helpful tutorial. Now, if you could just teach me to fold my clothes!

    Comment by Amy — 10 July 2009 @ 4:31 am

  3. Hamburgers and hotdogs :) must remember that: “it’s in the hotdog file” :} me, meh, sometimes i fold, sometimes i wad, sometimes i fling…

    Comment by arlee — 10 July 2009 @ 12:09 pm

  4. What a beautifully organized fabric corner! I love it! Thanks for the inspiring post. I don’t quilt, but I do tat and BOY do I EVER have a colorful thread stash, LOL! I’d love to find a colorful way to organize them like that!

    Comment by TattingChic — 11 July 2009 @ 8:32 am

  5. I found you today while looking at some photos on flickr. I just had to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog today. I came here because of your hexagons but think I may have been led here to read the posts on your mother and your grandmother. You are very talented.

    Comment by Danetta — 11 July 2009 @ 11:55 am

  6. Thanks for this tutorial (I found you via Sew, Mama, Sew). I fold my fabric in a way very similar to this but have never thought of using a ruler to make each pile fit perfectly. I find tidy piles of colour so inspiring but sometimes it’s difficult to keep them neat. Now I’ve got a secret weapon.

    Comment by peanut — 12 July 2009 @ 5:53 pm

  7. Thankyou for this. I needed shown that. Will be applying it RIGHT NOW. I think there is nothing more soothing than folding fabric and making it look pretty on a shelf. Yes I am sad…

    Comment by Mu Mu Design — 14 July 2009 @ 7:37 am

  8. I also saw this at Happy Zombie but what I’ll pick up from this tutorial is Hamburger/HotDog….. So much easier to explain to people than “Lengthwise….No, LENGTHWISE. So it’s longer…ahk, I’ll do it in a minute.” Wonderful!!

    Comment by Carly — 14 July 2009 @ 9:41 am

  9. Yup – I love this method, I have been using it a while. I do like to keep my sizes seperate so that I know at a glance how much I have. I also posted a tutorial on this!

    Isn’t organize of our favorite supplies half the fun?!

    I love it when my studio looks like a ‘store’.

    Keep up the great work.

    Comment by Allison — 16 July 2009 @ 9:14 am

  10. This is the coolest thing ever! I love that. I will be sure to retweet!

    Comment by Renaissance Austin — 17 July 2009 @ 4:02 pm

  11. I improvised on your method. My shelves are only 10 inches deep so I used an 8 inch square! I love the way it turned out.
    I had to link to your page in my blog about my folding adventures!

    Comment by carrie — 22 July 2009 @ 10:41 am

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  14. [...] Luverlie from Sew Many Pieces group blog found a fabulous how-to on folding fabric for storage at turningturning blog. Get the tutorial. [...]

    Pingback by Tutorial: Folding fabric · Quilting @ CraftGossip — 14 February 2010 @ 10:29 am

  15. I love this technique for folding fabric so much I linked to it from here: http://quilting.craftgossip.com/tutorial-folding-fabric/2010/02/14/

    Great job on the instructions! I’d be ashamed if anyone saw my fabric stash, so I cannot wait to try it.

    Warmest regards,
    Scarlett Burroughs
    Quilting Editor, Craft Gossip

    Comment by Scarlett Burroughs — 14 February 2010 @ 10:34 am

  16. Thank you so much for this! It’s such a huge help and an area I need so much help in! :) Thanks so much!

    Comment by Sarah Sarniak — 14 February 2010 @ 11:07 am

  17. This is without a doubt the most helpful blog post ive ever read! i had just decided last night to organize my fabric and i found this just in time! Thank you so much!

    Comment by Renee Candy Stick Lane — 14 February 2010 @ 4:39 pm

  18. Last weekend I purchased a bunch of fat quarters from the quilt shop. They have all their cut fabric very nicely stacked and now I feel inspired to keep my fabric better organized.

    Comment by Jennifer — 14 February 2010 @ 5:30 pm

  19. Awesome tutorial! My fabrics are currently color coordinated in my bookcases; however, I never really had a good way to fold the fabrics so that they were uniform and looking neat. Now I Do!!! Thanks so much….can’t wait to get started!

    Comment by Karen ~ lillybelle Custom Designs — 14 February 2010 @ 5:55 pm

  20. I saw this today and immediately went to my craft room and got busy. Here are my results: http://lovegracemarie.blogspot.com/2010/02/organization-is-key.html

    Comment by Valerie — 15 February 2010 @ 8:02 pm

  21. ive use this method at the furniture manufacturing company that i work for Fabric . it really helps whith the little pieces of off cuts we end up with!!

    Comment by robert — 2 March 2010 @ 8:50 pm

  22. LOVE IT! I have been looking at purchasing special forms but it would be super expensive. You just saved me a BOATLOAD of $$. Since my shelves are only 13 1/4″ wide, I took the cardboard insert from an old bolt of fabric and cut it down to 6″. Now, I can fit two stacks neatly across. It looks great! But it is scary, now, I have so much more room.

    Comment by Heather — 24 August 2010 @ 7:21 pm

  23. This is a very good post! Keep them comming!

    Comment by Preston Racette — 24 December 2010 @ 2:37 am

  24. So did you ever make that 2nd tutorial about used fabric scraps?

    Comment by MamaMay — 4 January 2011 @ 12:02 am


    Hehe, excuse me for being so dramatic, but this is one seriously helpful technique. The slabs of fabric differing in shape and size taking over my small space was driving me mad. I improvised with a piece of cardboard cut to size in place of a ruler.

    Can’t thank you enough :)

    Comment by Charlotte — 15 March 2011 @ 8:11 am

  26. This is really an art….and i thought people stitching fabrics together to make patchworks like the ones below, were an art….but folding and really organizing is an art too:


    Comment by BUD — 18 March 2011 @ 11:41 am

  27. Great idea, it looks so neat!
    Most of my fabric is for clothing so it’s generally 3 yard+ pieces, and they are all over the place!! Next time I clean my office/craft storage room, I’ll have to give your method a try!!

    Comment by Robin Priest — 28 March 2011 @ 9:38 am

  28. Thank you for such specific instructions (hamburger not hot dog)! I can’t wait to get in my sewing room and make it look this great!

    Comment by Jessica — 10 April 2011 @ 5:16 pm

  29. for Amy on folding clothes, use the same process with a clipboard. Works great for shirts.

    Comment by jenje — 24 April 2011 @ 6:14 pm

  30. I too like this lesson. I prefer to keep a grouping as purchased for a project that I may or may not ever get to, but I like the looks of color coding and use that approach. By the time I get to a project I may have changed my mind, or my daughter, who become obcessed with making and selling purses, may have borrowed it without permission and I’ll revise my plans.

    Comment by jenje — 24 April 2011 @ 6:23 pm

  31. Thanks I might do this.

    Comment by Lydia — 29 April 2011 @ 7:53 pm

  32. OK, I must be dense; please explain “hotdog/hamburger”.

    Comment by Kate — 2 May 2011 @ 12:12 am

  33. We use this term in school with kids. Imagine a piece of standard 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper. If you fold it one way, it is fat (hamburger) and the other way it is long and thin (hot dog). It’s that easy!

    Comment by Susan — 3 May 2011 @ 10:14 am

  34. Genius. I have wads of fabric stashed behind closed doors. I need some open shelves so I can enjoy them and reach them easily. Thank you for the inspiration.

    Comment by Susan — 23 June 2011 @ 1:15 pm

  35. This is an awesome and beautiful method to folding fabric. I will definitely be putting my dress maker’s ruler to good use.

    Comment by Carla — 28 June 2011 @ 10:51 am

  36. Thanks! This gave me incentive to start organizing my stash. I’ve started using a 8.5″ ruler for anything over 1 yard, a 6″ ruler for anything .5 – 1 yard and a 4.5″ ruler for fat quarters and anything less than .5. This has helped me to know exactly how much fabric I have in what colors, prints, etc. Thanks for a great idea!

    Comment by Sue — 28 June 2011 @ 1:33 pm

  37. Am about to start folding my fabric, thanks for the great tutorial, much better pictures than alot of the sites :O)

    Comment by Pippa Parsons — 24 July 2011 @ 6:11 am

  38. Help how do you store all the small pieces left from a projec?… how small before you decided to toss them?

    Comment by Betty — 30 August 2011 @ 2:25 pm

  39. All of my fabric is folded like this….I love it and so glad I found out about this method!

    Comment by Mickey — 16 November 2011 @ 2:48 pm

  40. I have been looking for awhile for a way to organize my COLLECTION (sounds better than stash) ;) because it has taken over 2 closets and my bedroom. I don’t have a sewing room so when I sew it comes out on my bed and gets throw back in the closet at bedtime. I no longer know what I have and what projects I have going so it is much easier to just go to the quilt store and get more. Oh I didn’t mention I work at a quilt store and so I see all the new things come in and just have to have them. To quote one of my fellow workers and friend, “Our boss allows us to pay her to work there”. (the boss does think that is very funny). I am off to take before pictures and then get started.

    Comment by Cindy Stacey — 1 January 2012 @ 1:15 pm

  41. This is the best tutorial that makes the most sense. A friend posted a link to another blog that led me here. I have spent the last 6+ hours reorganizing and refolding my stash. It’s truly hard to impress me, but I am blown away by how much room I have now. And I’m trying to figure out a way to move my fabrics from the closet and put them on the shelves. There’s something really inspiring about a craft studio that looks more like a fabric store. Thank you for sharing it!

    Comment by Aurora Selene — 8 February 2012 @ 4:04 pm

  42. I took 7 bins of fabric and folded it the way you showed and WOW!!! I went from my stash taking up 7 shelves and not being able to find my fabrics easily; to 2 shelves. One for solids and one for patterns. I have over 800 pieces. I can see every fabric at a glance and can tell generally how much I have by the size of the pc. I’m so absolutely impressed with your system. Not only have I started sewing more because seeing my fabric inspires me, but I can get a pc out of the stack easily. Best thing though is that pulling out one pc did not disrupt the stack at all. No more breaking my back lifting large bins. No more clutter in my sewing room either. I used a 6″x24″ ruler and didn’t have to spend $$ for boards to hold my fabric. Thanks so much for sharing your system.

    Comment by Jean Wiseheart — 12 February 2012 @ 11:30 pm

  43. You. Are. Brilliant. That’s all. Off to finally get a hold of my fabric stash (new and vintage from my Grandmother). This might even warrant a post from the hubby to thank you.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Comment by Lea C — 23 February 2012 @ 12:52 pm

  44. [...] Folding my fabric and sorting the mountains of scraps was a pleasure as always. Each piece brought back memories of projects past. [...]

    Pingback by A Winter’s “Spring Cleaning” | Sew Fearless — 28 February 2012 @ 10:36 am

  45. How do you fold fabric pieces that are not 22″ wide…pieces that you have already cut from?

    Thanks so much…I plan on getting my stash organized.

    Comment by Pat — 15 March 2012 @ 9:49 am

  46. [...] my fabric with the ruler folding technique which is awesome! Using this tutorial I organized the fabric I have been buying from some groups on Facebook, which is so fun and [...]

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  47. [...] followed this folding tutorial from turning*turning. Everything is so much easier to find now. I haven’t had a lot of time [...]

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  48. [...] is an awesome tutorial here on how to ruler fold quilting cottons. But if you are like me and have lots of fabrics that are [...]

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  49. [...] Folding Tutorial: Visit Turning*Turning to learn how to fold your fabric like a pro. You don’t need any cardboard sheets or [...]

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  50. [...] I have pondered and researched for months to find the perfect storage solution for my fabric.  One idea I checked into are those new plastic boards that allow fabric to be folded neatly to be placed on a shelf.  That is a system that certainly looks good, but it was quickly eliminated because the cost was too high.  Can you imagine, every time a piece of fabric is purchased, a storage board also needs to be purchased?  That just didn’t make sense to me, so my search continued.  Recently I saw a post about folding fabric for storage and it was definitely a light bulb moment for me.  Why didn’t I think to use my Omnigrid ruler for the task?  This is an easy method, albeit a little time-consuming, but a great idea that doesn’t cost a dime.  Check the tutorial out here at Turning * Turning. [...]

    Pingback by A Bit of Sewing and Craft Room Organization « Craft on Cue — 30 April 2012 @ 5:22 pm

  51. What an inspiration, I’m never able to fold the fabric the same although I always wash & press before storage. I off to tidy my sewing room and move my sewing machine under the window. Do you have a tutorial for folding fitted sheets?

    Comment by Helena — 1 June 2012 @ 11:06 pm

  52. Brilliant! A dear friend sent me this link and showed me how her fabric collection is being transformed by this method. I was thoroughly impressed!

    Comment by Glenna — 4 June 2012 @ 12:52 pm

  53. [...] I went on Pinterest and found a quickie tutorial for folding fabric around your 6.5″x24″ ruler. I used it for all of my yardage that was at least a quarter [...]

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  54. I find it so inspiring that I’m not the only girl out there over the age of 20 who doesn’t
    know this kind of stuff! Time to learn *about all of it*.

    Comment by Mahek Sabharwal — 5 September 2012 @ 3:45 am

  55. [...] fabric bundle gets folded in half, and in half again. (If that doesn’t make sense, you can see a tutorial with pictures here.) I end up with a nice packet of fabric that is about 6-1/2″ by 5″ or so. I like to use [...]

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  56. This sounds like a great project to start out the new year. It is definitely going on my yo do list.

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  58. I’ve actually been folding my fabric like this for years but “eyeballing” it. I love your method and may have to refold my entire stash! I was going to thank you but now on second thought, I’m not so sure…:)

    Comment by Mallary — 18 March 2013 @ 3:56 am

  59. I have been folding my stash this way for about 5 yrs. I have helped others organize their stash by folding this method.
    I have found that my shelves were getting too much sunlight from a nearby window, so I installed a window shade to the outside of my shelf, when need to see my fabric I pull and it rolls up, when done, I pull the shade down to protect my fabric from fading.

    My FQ get folded into neat approx 4″x5″ sqs and placed standing in clear totes, sorted by color.

    Comment by Lori_Lyn Dunn — 4 May 2013 @ 1:10 pm

  60. here is my blog post on it and the way to PULL fabric and ADD folds to the stack.
    This was part of a “Show us your stash” on your blogs…

    Comment by Lori_Lyn Dunn — 4 May 2013 @ 1:18 pm

  61. I love the idea of using a ruler as a template. However, for years I have been folding fabric in an “accordion” format rather than wrapping over and over. The accordion formate lets one simply pull directly out just what is needed without having to unwind.

    My fabric needs re sorting so I’ll see if the ruler as template will work with the accordion fold.

    I DO like the neatness of this method!

    Comment by Joy — 5 May 2013 @ 5:45 am

  62. Love the finished look… just wonder if the fabric will fade? Especially with the window there? I am contemplating what to do with a new room and wondered if this would be a problem….

    Comment by Phyllis Manson — 26 May 2013 @ 2:53 pm

  63. This is how my local quilt shop showed me how to fold my fabrics when I asked for an old bolt to put about 10 yds of fabric on that was given to me by a family member.

    Comment by Debbie Weishaar — 26 May 2013 @ 3:10 pm

  64. I really would like to know if you had the shelves made or bought them. I’ve been needing to replace mine for a while and these are perfect for your purposes AND mine. Thanks.


    Comment by Carolyn Malcolm — 26 May 2013 @ 3:28 pm

  65. Great advice. I didn’t know so bought 200 magazine boards. I will do this in the future.

    Comment by Judy Blinkenberg — 26 May 2013 @ 6:22 pm

  66. I work at a quilt shop and over a year ago, our guild president showed this folding method. Now, at work we fold the customer’s fabrics on our 8.5″ x 24.5″ ruler – it works for anything over 1/2 yard. For 1/2 yard, we fold the fold to the selvege and then, fold in half. Everything it neat, the customer goes home with a stack showing the pretty fabrics. Also, easier to count to be sure we charge every piece and don’t miss anything.
    My goal is to redo my sewing room this way. Thanks for the clues on prechecking the size for the cubes I have purchased.

    Comment by Janet Hashberger — 26 May 2013 @ 6:45 pm

  67. We have recently moved and are now in a smaller home. I have boxes and plastic containers full of material. This will help me be able to keep more of my material. Thank You very much for the info. I have already started separating material to give away.

    Comment by Joy McFarland — 26 May 2013 @ 9:07 pm

  68. Wow, I have such fabric envy right now
    I will definitely be trying this method for folding mine, though I’ll have to improvise in the ruler department, I’m sadly lacking one of those fantastic wide ones.

    Comment by Fay — 11 June 2013 @ 3:41 pm

  69. Thank you for the fabric folding instructions. I am setting up a new sewing room and this will keep all my fabric organized an looking great

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  71. Recently spent most of 3 days folding my stash. How satisfying to actually be able to look in the cabinet and see what fabrics I have! And so far I’ve been able to discipline myself to retold and put fabrics back where they belong. Yeah!!!

    Comment by Debbie B — 31 July 2013 @ 8:20 pm

  72. Cool idea Getting ready to move my sewing room to our finished basement. Looking for ideas on how to set it up and organize all threads, embroidery hoops, stuff !!

    Comment by R — 25 August 2013 @ 9:30 pm

  73. Excellent tutorial. At the moment I am storing and sorting through my large stash and I found this method to be excellent. Everything looks to neat and organized.

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  75. I fold my fabric this way for years and love it. For the multi-yard pieces I leave them after pulling the ruler out and stack them with others on bookshelves. They look nice and I can find them.

    Comment by Karen Wheeler — 21 October 2013 @ 11:13 pm

  76. I have been folding my fabric this way for years. But don’t leave them on shelves if you get sunlight in the room. It burns the fabric.

    Comment by Sylvia Klein — 3 February 2014 @ 6:29 am

  77. I’ve also been folding my fabric this way for years. I use a 5″ wide ruler, and two stacks fit perfectly on the Cubicles bookshelves sold by Target. They are economical and come in several colors.

    PS Small world – I have some of that Thai striped piece that you used for your second demonstration too! My mother-in-law brought it back to me about 25 years ago and I’ve still got some bits and pieces of it!

    Comment by Sarah Craig — 3 February 2014 @ 6:31 am

  78. Thanks for inspiring me to organize. I order from QuiltHome.com a good bit and they fold fabric uniformly and it is always so pretty when I take it from the boxes:) It is almost too pretty to disturb:)

    Comment by Melissa — 3 February 2014 @ 7:17 am

  79. Oh I wish I had this problem – needing to organize too much fabric!! My stash fits into two 22 X 15 X 13 plastic tubs with lids. One is for “fabric – small” which is for smaller pieces and is sorted by color; the other is “fabric – large” and also holds a roll of batting. Sigh. But it’s a wonderful idea. And added extra bonus: it looks gorgeous on those shelves.

    Comment by Annie Dee — 3 February 2014 @ 7:24 am

  80. Love the way to fold, but am concerned that your fabric is right-side-out stored right by that window. Is that just for showing it to us?

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  108. Thankyou for the tutorial. My two unruly laundry baskets have turned into two large, two medium and one small fabric boxes from ikea (different box size for different size off fabric). My quilting ruler is a bit narrower and it the after folding the fabric was the perfect size to go into the boxes so I could see the “spines”. After doing one box in the morning we had a family outing to ikea to get more :-)

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